When Edward Snowden first started leaking NSA secrets last year one bit of the story that had nothing to do with national intelligence got lots of attention: he supposedly abandoned his girlfriend. Stories from the time noted how Snowden had lied to his girlfriend about the purpose of his Hong Kong trip, where he would eventually become the subject of an intense manhunt by media and U.S. officials alike. Her father, Jonathan Mills, even talked to media about how Snowden had left his daughter “to fend for herself.”
Fast forward a year and it turns out things are a bit more complicated. It seems Mills ended up reconciling with Snowden and she’s been living with him in Moscow since July, according to a new documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night. “The surprise revelation … upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US,” notes the Guardian.
Citizenfour, which was filmed by Laura Poitras and uses all first-hand footage to tell Snowden’s tale, provides a rare glimpse into the whistleblower’s personal life, which he has long been reluctant to talk about. So why should we care about his girlfriend, who described herself as a “pole-dancing superhero” in a blog she took down shortly after Snowden started leaking information? Because it shows his life isn’t as awful as some might want to believe. Glenn Greenwald explains at the Intercept:
The fact that he is now living in domestic bliss as well, with his long-term girlfriend whom he loves, should forever put to rest the absurd campaign to depict his life as grim and dank. Snowden not only changed how the world thinks about a number of profoundly important political issues by defying its most powerful government, but then was able to build a happy, healthy and fulfilling life for himself. And if he can do that, so can other whistleblowers, which is precisely why so much effort has been devoted to depicting him in all sorts of false lights.